Through the PhD application process, I was familiar with the reputation of the Operations Research Center, but didn’t have a full appreciation of what it offers. Now, as a student, it has become clear why the ORC is a special place. I see my peers contributing a huge variety of research topics, and I have friendly conversations with faculty who are top researchers in their fields. As a center (and not a department), many social activities, seminar series, and mentorship programs are organized by students. This unique level of student engagement fosters a tight-knit community among students and with faculty.
As an undergraduate operations research major, I felt well-equipped to begin research early in my graduate studies. The ORC culture clearly prioritizes research from the start of the program. Incoming students match with advisors before starting at MIT, which not only allows early pursuit of research, but guarantees it, and ensures that all students have a similar research experience in their first year. Although the advisor matching process seemed daunting in advance, the additional certainty in advisor choice and research topics made me more confident in my choice of program and broadly in my decision to pursue a PhD.
Whenever I head to the ORC to work, I know that a number of my peers will also be around. My desk (located near the entrance to the center) and the open floorplan encourage conversation, and I enjoy taking breaks from work to socialize, have a meal, or play ping-pong. The ORC is located in Kendall Square, along with a number of businesses, restaurants, and academic buildings, including MIT Sloan. The area has a young-professional feel, while Kendall and nearby Central Square provide a variety of social opportunities. Overall, I have found that the ORC culture fosters a great blend of doing impactful work, making friends, and having fun.
I could not have imagined pursuing my PhD anywhere other than the ORC. I have been truly and thoroughly delighted by the unparalleled academic experience, the people that I’ve met, and the culture that I’ve become a part of.
The ORC was everything I was looking for in a PhD program. Because you enter the program with an advisor, you explore and work on research projects from day one, and for me, this is where the ORC shined. Especially having been out of school and working for several years, I was eager to begin research but also a little nervous about transitioning smoothly back into an academic environment. The ORC has gone beyond and above in this sense; the courses have been thoughtful and well-designed, and the guidance and support from my advisor and fellow students have been incredibly helpful.
Where you pursue graduate studies will be your home for 4+ years, and so when applying to and choosing between programs, it is equally important to consider the program’s culture as it is to consider its academics. From welcome events and seminars to social gatherings and spontaneous office discussions on coursework and research (or on topics completely unrelated!), the ORC’s co-directors, faculty, and students have all made the ORC feel like home to me. Outside of the ORC, Boston and MIT are also wonderful places to call home. The university has boundless resources and opportunities for you to take advantage of, and the city offers many fun activities and nice restaurants to explore. I especially enjoyed organizing an overnight winter retreat to Killington Ski Resort with my fellow students and look forward to organizing many more.
I chose to become a PhD student at MIT ORC because I was interested in solving important problems in an interdisciplinary and collaborative environment. This decision was definitely a significant step for me. In fact, what I have got from studying at MIT ORC is way beyond my expectations. The courses taught by knowledgeable faculty members have inspired me to approach problems from creative perspectives. The advisors at ORC can always give excellent suggestions that guide students through their research. Being challenged by the fast-paced PhD life at ORC has made me a much better researcher. Plenty of academic seminars are valuable opportunities to meet people from different backgrounds. It is true that PhD is hard, but pursuing it at MIT with talented classmates from all over the world has been one of the most exciting parts of my life.
I enjoy living in Cambridge. The beautiful views of the Charles River and the fresh air always put me in a great mood. Exploring the area with the warm company of friends and enjoying delicious food are perfect ways to slow down a bit and reduce stress. This is the best place where you can work hard to positively impact the world while enjoying your life!
Like many prospective students, MIT ORC was my graduate department of choice, because of the world-leading, application-centered research it conducts. I was understandably overjoyed upon learning of my acceptance to the department, and this enthusiasm was further reinforced at the Open House (in April for prospective students), when we all had the opportunity to meet with faculty about their research interests, and mingle with current students and learn more about their lives. The warm welcome I received at the Open House by faculty, staff and students was another big reason I wanted to join the department.
Looking back, the good things I heard about the ORC culture at the Open House were certainly true. The office is a space in which students can work independently (either at their assigned desks or in individual study rooms), collaborate in shared study rooms, and socialize or just hang out. The office is also where events are conducted, such as student seminars and social events organized by the INFORMS student chapter. I am constantly surrounded by peers who are incredibly smart and kind, and the ORC is definitely a place where cooperation comes first and strong friendships are formed.
The greater Boston area is a very livable city and is a great place to pursue graduate study in. There is a network of bicycle lanes together with a subway and bus network that makes car ownership not necessary. In my free time, I run along the nearby Charles river (weather permitting), explore the city, and watch free concerts by the Boston Symphony Orchestra. The many sides of Boston include a bustling entertainment scene, a wealth of nature spots within a short drive away, and flagship sports arenas. MIT also has a huge gym free for all MIT members!
All of this provides a great environment in which to do good work. At MIT, particular emphasis is placed on doing research with both theoretical significance and measurable impact. Faculty often have industry collaborations with leading firms in the US and globally, so you get the chance to work directly on meaningful problems which can have immediate societal impact. My current research develops new methodological tools in optimization, in order to solve difficult problems in logistics and transport at scale. This is a issue I feel strongly about and am happy to be working on. The diverse and comprehensive research interests among the faculty mean that you can definitely find an advisor whose research interests align with yours. Of course, similar research interests should not be your only criteria in deciding on your research advisor; it is also important to find an advisor whose working styles match yours and with whom you would be excited to embark on an academic journey. Please feel free to reach out to current students to learn more!
Looking back, I could not think of another place that I would enjoy as much as the ORC to complete my PhD study. Personally, the ORC gave me access to a close-knit community of talented, caring and hard-working people. The peers and faculties not only support my aspirations and endeavors, but also motivate me to become a better person every day. Academically, the ORC provides unparalleled research opportunities. Here, you are challenged to understand the fundamentals of important problems and to create innovative solutions that can truly make impacts in the world. Close to many major firms and other research universities, the ORC will allow you to collaborate within and beyond the MIT campus. If you have ambitious ideas you would like to see into action, the ORC is definitely the place for you.
One advice for perspective students is to choose your advisor carefully. Besides academic research interests, think of someone who you can trust personally, a mentor whose core values align with yours. The style of their advising also plays a crucial part of your interaction with them: would you like to have someone more engaged, or someone more “hands-off”? Reach out to current or former students to find out.
After living in California for 8 years, I was ready to venture out to new exciting places, especially the East Coast. It was no surprise to me that I instantly fall in love with Boston as soon as I arrived. Around the Cambridge area, there are countless beautiful hiking destinations as well as natural parks, such as the Middlesex Fells Reservation and Boston Commons. When winter comes, you also have access to a wealth of skiing resorts and ice skating rinks close by as well. Overall, the people here are kind and sincere, and there are many fun activities to keep yourself busy.
When I was thinking about getting a PhD, the ORC stood out to me for its culture. The ORC is collaborative, friendly and supportive environment. For students who come here, the ORC becomes a second family of sorts. The co-directors and faculty look after the graduate students, with a clear focus on community, mentorship and development. Advisors are known for encouraging their students to become better researchers and helping them get the support and resources they need. The group of students at the ORC is one of the highlights of the department. There is a sincere friendship found among the students that manifests in academic collaborations, long-lasting relationships and a genuinely fun environment.
If I were to offer any tip for prospective students, it is that choosing your advisor is crucial to the experience you will have. One of the great things about the ORC is that it is very interdisciplinary with faculty working across a range of industries and applications. However, advisors don’t just differ in their research focus. There are also a variety of personalities, working styles, mentorship strengths and collaboration preferences. Talking with potential advisors, before, during and after the open house is very important. What is not always done but I would highly recommend, is reaching out to current students of the advisor. Talking with current students gives you a feel for what it is like to work with the advisor for a long time. Taking the time to find an advisor who matches you in what you are looking for and need will make a worlds difference in your experience as a graduate student!